Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Mike Curiak’s adoption of ultralight techniques and philosophies evolved slowly, he says, as garage gear and his own DIY stuff became increasingly available. But now, Curiak, who owns and operates LaceMine29, a company that builds high-end, hand-built wheels for 29-inch bikes, fat bikes and 650b bikes, simply lives light.
Mike’s also no slouch behind a camera. Case in point: this astoundingly gorgeous account of his recent trip to Southwestern Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest, an ambitious itinerary that included running some pretty serious water in an inflatable packraft.
Waking to the sound of rain wasn’t what I’d dreamed about. Although honestly, at first, I wasn’t sure that was even what it was. The optimist in my drybag hoped that it was Doom, just outside, slinging handfuls of sand at our tent while taking a selfie and mouthing ‘perf!’ at the camera. Once I scraped the crusted sand from my eyes and focused, I could see a million+ droplets beaded up on the outer skin of our ‘mid, a few hundred of them sliding earthward. Going to be a wet one.
175 miles in 7 days, though the numbers are still irrelevant. I mention them only to provide some context — a framework if you will — to understood what we did in Alaska. I doubt I can explain why to anyone that doesn’t already get it. Highlights included dense fog on the Copper River and its delta, massive swells buoying us along on the crossing of Icy Bay, brief moments of sun (or at least not-rain) amidst all the rain, thousands of seals, mirrorlike beaches near Katalla, millions of berries, and the camaraderie developed between friends attempting a challenging and worthy objective.
The Brooks Range has always intimidated me as a logistic challenge: expensive, remote, cold in the winter and buggy in the summer. But it is the largest swath of Alaska I haven’t seen, and with a lot of planning, we were able to do a long and remote trip within my budget. We had to have the route, logistics, and pace, dialed-in to pull off this ambitious trip. Our route evolved to be: fly to Anaktuvuk, float southwest on the John River, hike west to the Alatna River, float southeast on the Alatna to access the Arrigetch, cross the Arrigetch, float northwest on the Noatak River, hike southwest to the Ambler River, and float west to Ambler. 400 miles in 19 days.
Light, Flexible, Easy to Fix Packrafts: The Perfect Vehicle to Navigate the Narrows
Text & photos by Dan Ransom
This Trailhead is a Total Yard Sale: Packrafts, Paddles and Drysuits Hanging Out to Dry. A couple tents looked haphazardly pitched, and the trucks are caked in thick mud. Our arrival is probably not a very welcome alarm clock.
Kind of an odd scene I thought, when a voice calls out from one of the tents: “You guys running the narrows?”
This is the start of Utah’s Zion Narrows, one of the most beautiful canyons on the entire Colorado Plateau. It’s an incredibly popular destination, one I’ve descended all or in-part nearly a dozen times either as a backpacking trip or an exit to a nearby technical descent. But today we aren’t here to hike it, we’re here to float. And I’m using a packraft.
The guys we are waking up–they paddled this stretch yesterday. It’s an incredible trip they say, one of the best ever. But the approach. It’s miserable. There isn’t enough water. Takes way longer than anticipated. Beats the hell out of the boat. And by the time they got off the river and rallied back up the hill to snag their shuttle vehicle a quick moving thunderstorm blasted through the area and turned the road to complete shit. Hence, this morning’s yard sale.
And now, a little bleary-eyed and sleep deprived, they are looking curiously at our small packs, and wondering if we aren’t about to make some poor decisions ourselves.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is proud to be an unofficial sponsor of the unofficial Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic.
Words by Luc Mehl
The Mountain Wilderness Classic is Alaska’s premier wilderness challenge, a grassroots event where participants push to their exertion and exhaustion limits. Ultralight is the name of the game, so it is no surprise that the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter is the pack of choice.
The 2016 course started at Galbraith Lake and ended in Wiseman, completing a north-south traverse of the Brooks Range, Alaska’s northernmost mountain range. The course was short by Classic standards, a minimum of 110 miles, half of which was floatable. This was a welcome change from the 2015 300-mile route in the Alaska Range, which was only finished by four of the thirty participants.
The short Brooks Range course and 24-hour daylight allowed participants to cut even more gear from their packs, with many participants expecting to go without sleep. Sleeping bags, shelter systems, and extra clothing were all left behind. One participant even opted to leave his packraft behind, starting with a 13 pound pack (this ended up being a bad decision). Read more about the Classic, and check out a sweet video.
Gear & Clothes That Can Make the Difference For Your Wilderness Packraft Adventure
Text by Moe Witschard // Photos by Moe Witschard & Mike St. Pierre
Maurice “Moe” Witschard is an experienced explorer, photographer and a filmmaker who loves packrafting and adventuring. Like all adventurers and packrafters he knows that it is key to stay safe and dry. In this blog post he shares 10 tips for your packrafing attire that will make your packraft adventure as safe and fun as possible.
Making smart choices as to what to wear often means the difference between joy and misery on a packraft trip. After packrafting extensively over the past 10 years, I have tried many different clothing systems. My present strategies are based on principles that I have taken from years of whitewater kayaking and backpacking. I apply them to my trips in what I believe is the most elegant of wilderness watercraft: the packraft. Here, I share my tips.
Bike/Pack/Raft/Climb: Steve “Doom” Fassbinder’s Recommendations for Aspiring Multi-Sport Adventurers
“You’re almost always making it up as you go”, says Steve Fassbinder of his multi-sport exploits. “Doom” embarks on long-distance, backcountry adventures that typically include two to four of the following sports: packrafting, thru hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking.
“I’m figuring it out as I go,” he says. Fassbinder started racing mountain bikes, but eventually, the constant riding took a toll on his knees. When he discovered packrafting he realized he could take his bike and do these routes that were never possible before. Learn more about multi-sport adventure.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Partners With Maine-Based Whitewater Athlete
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway. It’s remote, but also well managed with established sites that make camping very comfortable. My favorite spot is just on the river, where the water pools up above some rapids. I paddle in, accompanied only by the white noise of the river and of the bird songs. Temps are warm, even as evening approaches, and only the slightest breeze rustles the white pines. I pull my canoe on the shoreline, unload my gear and settle in where I can watch the water. I’m tired after a long, hard day of paddling, but I feel invigorated. I watch the brook trout sip mayflies from the surface of the river, and out of nowhere comes an Osprey. Taking a trout totally unawares, she makes a splash in the river and flies off just as quickly as she arrived. The sun sets, the colors of the rainbow playing over the surface of the Allagash. A rare and precious moment, I feel fully connected to nature. –John Connelly
Hyperlite Mountain Gear recently partnered with former US Canoe & Kayak team member and Maine resident John Connelly to support his 1500-mile solo river/sea odyssey. Connelly has numerous first descents under his belt, along with decades of experience on whitewater. His 75-day trip will take him through two countries and four states and over 22 streams and 58 lakes. The journey will be the first to link four major waterways: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Saint John River, Bay of Fundy and Maine Island Trail. We are providing Connelly with a 5400 Porter Pack from our soon-to-be-released Expedition Series, along with an Echo II Shelter System and Stuff Sacks.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador, biking enthusiast and founder of Lace Mine 29, a custom bike wheel company, Mike Curiak has pushed the sport of extreme cycling to new heights, and was nominated for a spot in the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame. He, Jesse Selwyn and Travis Anderson recently used packrafts, bikes and their legs to explore Cataract Canyon. This is a repost from Curiak’s blog.
A few years back I had the opportunity to complete a unique trip in Canyonlands National Park. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassadors Doom, Moe and I rode, walked, and floated for three days and roughly 75 miles through Beef Basin, the Needles, Cross Canyon, Cataract Canyon and Imperial Canyon, as well as the northern edge of the Abajos in completing our loop. A few months ago Jesse and I got to talking about that trip, and it wasn’t something that he could let go of once the seed had been planted.
Ambassador and Photographer Steve “Doom” Fassbinder works for Alpacka Rafts, but we don’t know where he finds the time for a 9 to 5. He’s constantly sending us stellar photos of his bikepacking, packrafting and climbing adventures. For his latest trip, he invited fellow ambassadors Scott Adamson and Angela VanWiemeersch to embark on a wild multi-sport adventure in the Utah desert backcountry. It involved numerous first ascents of sandstone towers and granite walls, plus packrafting the San Juan River and bikepacking. All photos in this essay are by Doom.
This is the second in a series of two articles on Don Carpenter’s August 2015 expedition to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles he and his team of three practiced while there. (Read the first article). At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we feel that the Leave No Trace principles are absolutely in line with our philosophy of stripping down your load on outdoor adventures and in life. Minimize your impact on the environment just as you would dial in your gear and your systems in as minimalist a manner as possible!
Photo & text by Don Carpenter
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska is a special place. A large and diverse ecosystem of rivers and spruce forests exists on the south side of the Brooks Range, while glaciated peaks lie in the heart of the range, and the coastal plain expands to the north, with rivers draining into the Arctic Ocean.
Marshy, spongy muskeg tundra made walking more challenging than it appeared from afar. Although obscured by fog, cold drizzle and wind, I could feel the large glaciated peaks of the Brooks Range to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north. My team of three people and I had encountered only small pods of two to six caribou. But I imagined this plain brimming with the huge caribou herds that visit the coastal plain to calve and feed early summer. Many of the birds had already migrated south, but we encountered large numbers of geese preparing to move out, as well as falcons and harriers every day. Fewer animals, cold weather, and the vivid red and gold of the tundra made it apparent that fall was well underway by mid-August.
Though we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, we took great measures to be prepared for possible encounters. In part I of the series, we discussed Planning Ahead and Preparing for your trip. In Part II, we’ll discuss how to deal with wildlife and fires in the backcountry. Read the rest of the article now!
This is the first in a series of two articles on Don Carpenter’s August 2015 expedition to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles he and his three teammates practiced while there. (Read the second article). At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we feel that the Leave No Trace principles are absolutely in line with our philosophy of stripping down your load on outdoor adventures and in life. Minimize your impact on the environment just as you would dial in your gear and your systems in as minimalist a manner as possible!
Photo & text by Don Carpenter
On my first ski expedition to the high peaks of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in 2014, my eyes were constantly drawn north. In that direction, the glaciated peaks of the Brooks Range transition to the open coastal plain and the Arctic Ocean beyond. I knew I wanted to go there someday.
Just over a year later, I found myself walking across the Refuge’s coastal plain, en route from the south side of the Brooks Range to Beaufort Sea. My three partners and I were traveling by packraft and foot, linking four rivers over 12 days. Our goal was to explore a vast, pristine landscape, while minimizing our impact following strict Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.
We practiced all seven of the LNT principles on our trip. Here are some details on how several of the principles applied to our adventure.
Principle #1 Plan Ahead and Prepare…
You can’t take care of the environment around you if you aren’t prepared to take care of yourself. Expedition planning is an art form balancing safety, efficiency and pack weight. We wanted our packs to be light, but erred a bit heavier with a few items due to remoteness and anticipated weather. In an environment such as the Arctic in August, where winter conditions may not be far off, going light is a relative concept. Read the rest of the article now!
Midway through a six-mile, ten-hour day, Brad Meiklejohn asked his packrafting partner, Roman Dial, “What are you going to tell people about this route?”
“The brush…” he responded. The hellish brush…
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassadors and expert multi-sport adventurers Meiklejohn, Roman Dial and Mike Curiak had embarked on a two-week packrafting/thru hiking (aka bushwhacking) adventure in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park. The team had just climbed off a 15-mile paddle and sail in packrafts across Lake Kontrashibuna, where they contended with miles and miles of some gnarly bushwhacking—really gnarly bushwhacking—in order to do the first descent of The Pile River (aka the “Pile it On” packrafting adventure).
“We had to wrestle with and wiggle through brush at the pathetic rate of four hours to the mile,” Dial says. “That’s serious class IV brush, requiring full body weight to fight through and threatening to break an arm or a leg should you topple. In ten hours we made 5.5 miles.”
Canoe & Kayak magazine published various reviews on our products online and in their print publication late 2014. Stay tuned. More to come. But here’s a wrap-up of what they thought about our UltaMid 2, Echo II Tarp System and the 2400 Southwest Pack.
“My experience . . . I don’t always have much time to get shelter over my head. No time to unpack and pitch a tent. No time to find trees and string a tarp. Or no trees. Most of those moments are driven by the undercurrent of desperation as violent squall or windstorm is approaching. And it’s in those conditions that a ‘mid’ shelter is a godsend… The Ultamid is also sweet for shade on a hot desert afternoon (vents at the peak enhance the air flow) or as the tent on trips free of bugs. I’ve even pitched one over passengers in the front of a raft during a sleet storm. The price tag is the main drawback, but the benefits are clear: ease of setup, quality of design, and the ability to sleep two people under a one-pound shelter.”
“The Echo II is made with high performance Cuben fiber fabric with an unmatched strength to weight ratio. They call the Echo series the most technically advanced professional tarps available and I believe it. A three piece modular: tarp, mesh tent and detachable vestibule, handy concept for some, not so much for others who might want it factory integrated, but target market is extreme light and modular provides the option to tailor needs perfectly. Construction is excellent, including military grade hardware. Cuben material is as light as spider spin and way tough: Seriously lightweight at 1.84 lbs complete! Covered space is more than the 4P Hoopla even, but of course, 4P under the Echo are all on their backs. Erects with a kayak paddle.”
“There’s nothing worse than humping a one-size-fits-all drysack with a couple of questionable shoulder straps across a swampy, mile-long trail. Hyperlite’s pack series offers comfortable suspension systems in three frame sizes, and the lightweight Cuben sailcloth material adds remarkable durability.”
Photos & text by Mike Curiak (republished from 2013)
About a year ago I was introduced to the wonders of multi-day whitewater packrafting. When I returned, glowing, from my trip, I spent lots of waking moments searching out other rivers for future trips. Thanks to a writeup I found, Oregon’s Chetco River rose to the tip-top of that list.
Doom (aka Steve Fassbinder) and I had planned to run it last spring, but the bottom fell out of the flows a few days before we were able to get there.
I spent the next few months watching weather patterns and the gauge, hoping that the water would come up before the season was too far advanced to enjoy it. Jeny’s need to burn a heap of vacation time before October 1st also hastened the desire to head north. When I called Bearfoot Brad to arrange our vehicle shuttle he protested that there simply wasn’t any water. Unlike Brad, I’d been methodically checking the forecasts, and within hours of our arrival in Oregon the fall rains began, taking our target from 60cfs to over 800.
Highlights of the trip are many. Top of the list has to be the impossibly clear water, followed closely by the carved-through-bedrock gorges, both ensconced within the remotest feeling place I’ve yet experienced in the Lower 48. Both of us are lifelong mountain bikers and agreed that we’ve never been able to get anywhere close to this ‘out there’ by bike.
Jeny and I completed our trip in four days. That was a bit ambitious for a first time down, and given a choice I’d add an extra day next time. The hike is easy and takes half a day rain or shine–I’d want the extra time to savor and photograph the gorges and canyons once floating.
The fact that climate change is exaggerating extremes was easy to see as we arrived in New Zealand two months after the largest floods in 40 years, but then spent two and half weeks boating during a record breaking drought. However, we found water and took Alpacka Raft’s new White Water boat for some fun rides throughout the incredible two islands. Read the rest of the article here!
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear team puts our gear to the test. This year CEO Mike St. Pierre and John Mansir hiked and packrafted in Northern Maine.
Baxter State Park is over 200,000 acres of wilderness located in northern central Maine. The park includes Maine’s highest peak, and it lies at the end of the Appalachian Trail. It’s also home to Mount Katahdin (also called Baxter Peak). The park is “forever wild” (no electricity, running water, or paved roads inside the park boundary) and sees only sees only about 60,000 visitors each year so there’s plenty of opportunities to find empty trails and private stretches of lake and river for paddling. Visit the Park’s website here for more information.
Mike and John began their adventures hiking from the Freeze Out Trail (which is the wildest and northernmost trail in the Park) to Webster Lake. They packrafted down Webster Stream (class II, III) to Second Lake and then across Grand Lake to Trout Brook and out. Check out their video: Packrafting Baxter State Park on YouTube
A report and video from Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Mike and Josh on their adventure on East Branch of the Penobscot River in Northern Maine.
On the weekend of September 22 and 23, Hyperlite Mountain Gear founder and CEO Mike St. Pierre and Josh Mansir once again demonstrated their ability to play just as hard on Saturday and Sunday as they work at Hyperlite Mountain Gear during the week. The weekend’s adventure was a hike (carrying Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs of course) into remote Maine’s remote Lake Matagamon where they inflated their packrafts and then ran the East Branch of the Penobscot River
Lake Matagamon (or “Grand Lake Matagamon” as it is sometimes called) is located in Northeastern Maine. The is known in Maine for its fishing, many remote islands and scenery. Its a great paddling lake.
Approximately half of the lake is located inside the Northeast corner of Baxter State Park, the jewel of Maine’s state park system and the home to Maine’s highest peak, Baxter Peak (or Katahdin).
For Mike and Josh, Lake Matagamon was there stop moving by foot and switched over to paddle. They pulled their packrafts and drysuits out of their Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs and hit the water. From there they followed the East Branch of the Penobscot River approximately 47 miles to Medway, Maine.
Along the way Mike and Josh had their share of slack water — we heard some whining about aching shoulders when they returned. But they also had their share of excitement.
We love seeing our gear in action. Check out Luc Mehl’s video of his adventures traversing the rivers and mountains around Tennessee. His blog features his packrafting trip on six rivers in the American Southeast. Luc wore his Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter Pack underneath his dry suit for his trip down the Horsepasture River, North Carolina.
Be sure to visit Luc’s blog and learn more about his adventures. Do you have packrafting stories, pictures, or videos that you would like to share? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you’ve been up to!
Here’s a closer look at the pack Luc relied on to get him through his adventures in the Southeast. The HMG Porter’s roll-top closure, compression straps, versatile attachment points, and waterproof Cuben Fiber/Polyester material make it a perfect companion on any packrafting trip. Click here to check out the product page!